Childhood Memories of a Mother

Our mothers may be living or dead.  Mom, Mama, Mother–she was usually there when we were young.  Those distant memories can be captured rather than lost.

This is a creative non-fiction challenge.  Remember being a child.  Remember your mother (or the one who raised you) as she was with you.  Write one memory, not a summary.  Show her to us through your young eyes.

50 responses to “Childhood Memories of a Mother

  1. This piece is not from my ill-spent childhood, but it does meet the mother and memories criteria. This was my Christmas article for the newspaper.

    THE TRIP
    It was sleeting the morning of December 23, 2008, which would not have been a problem if I were nestled all snug in my bed, but, I was on my way to South Bend Regional Airport to board a flight destined for Tennessee. My traveling companion was my 82-year-old mother, Josie. We had been invited to spend Christmas with her older sister in Nashville.
    In preparation for our journey, I had downloaded the “Official Packing Instructions” provided curtsey of the TSA. There were four single spaced pages of do’s and don’t s. It was thoroughly intimidating. Fluids and gels must be bagged separately, no toothpaste, no drinking water, no nail clippers, no machine guns or grenades. I did make sure that I had an ample supply of Dramamine just in case my nerves went into overdrive.
     I was anxious about flying, but I could not deny my mother the joy of this trip. In the prior two years, my father and brother had died and Josie was confined to a wheelchair due to heart failure and blindness.  
    As the car pulled up to the airport entrance, I felt the need to instruct my mother in the proper etiquette for going through Security. She was gregarious with a rapier wit and a wide streak of mischief down the middle of her brain.
    “Josie, these TSA inspectors mean business, they are humorless. Do not, and I mean, Do Not, get chatty or witty with them. Simply answer their questions and follow their directions. I am not going to be sent to a Turkish Prison because you decide to get cute!”
    Josie nodded obediently and said, “Perhaps you should take a couple of those Drama Pills before we go in, you seem a little tense.”
    I took two pills and we made it through Security without incident. As we entered the holding area, the Registrar announced that our flight was delayed due to foul weather. Three hours into our five-hour delay, Josie had made friends with everyone in the waiting area. She played the room like a seasoned showman, and I continued to pop Dramamine like Pezz candies.
    Finally, we boarded the plane and  taxied onto the runway.  After about ten minutes, the pilot came over the PA system and said,
    “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain. I am sorry for the delay, but we are having trouble reaching the tower by radio or phone.”
    I was ready to bolt; I sure didn’t want to fly with a pilot who had aggravated the tower people so much that they wouldn’t answer the phone.
    Minutes later, another announcement, “Ladies and gentlemen, we are still unable to raise anyone in the tower; we need to return to the terminal, I apologize”
    Once back at the terminal, an attendant exited the plane and returned with a communique for the pilot. Again, the pilot made an announcement.
    “Ladies and gentlemen, we will be taking off right after we re-fuel. We consumed too much fuel waiting on the tarmac, sorry for the inconvenience.”
    We all broke into belly laughs, what else could we do?
     “Isn’t this fun!” Josie said as she took my hand.
    Josie held my hand all the way to Nashville. After all the years of taking care of her and my father, finally, things were back the way they were meant to be. My Mommy was holding my hand, taking care of me, and I was her little girl…if only for a few hours. That was our last Christmas together Josie died a few months later… Oh, how I wish I could hold her hand just one more time.

    • Well put. I think the idea of getting loving mom back to hold our hands sounds very good. Just one more time. Yes. Bravo, Peanut.

      • Peanut, that was beautiful. . I hope you don’t mind, I was touched by you and wrote about holding my mother’s hand too.
        Tink

    • This is a repost but I didn’t want my mom to be left out. So here goes.

      My third attempt at making ensaymada – Filipino sweet bread – is yet again unsuccessful. My mood rises and falls as the dough doesn’t rise but falls. I’ve succeeded in nothing more than creating a gargantuan mess consisting of bowls, mixing appliances, baking tins, measuring devices and useless dough. I love baking but I hate cleaning. It seemed simple. Mix flour, sugar, butter, milk, vanilla and yeast . . . The dreaded yeast that has become my nemesis. I stand before the warm toaster oven watching, waiting. Did it rise, even just a bit? After an hour I know I have been defeated by of all things — yeast. I grab the phone and dial. I should have done this before I started this mess.

      “Mom, remember the ensaymada you used to make when I was little? I’m trying to make it again. How the heck do I get the yeast to work? I’ve tried three times. First, I warmed the milk. Didn’t work. Then I stuck it in the warm oven like you told me to but that didn’t work. Then I tried both together. Nothing. Can you think of anything else?”

      She laughs, “That’s so funny. I don’t know, Lis. I just remember mixing the ingredients and putting it in the oven at a low temperature. I got the recipe from Lula but I lost it after the hurricane. She was known for making the best ensaymada in our area but she died so I can’t get the recipe anymore.” Her voice lowered as she said, “I’m sorry, Lis. I wish I could remember but my memory is going.” I can hear that my Mom is trying to absorb some of my disappointment and I feel badly. Moms try so hard. Our conversation continues for another fifteen minutes.

      I smile as I think of all the wonderful things my Mom has done for me over the years. I remember her in the kitchen making the ensaymada, mixing, kneading, baking. As the sweet bready smell wafted through the house my brothers and I would dash in the kitchen to check on the ensaymada’s progress.

      I’m still smiling as I say, “Thanks, anyway, Mom. I’ll try googling tips again. Love you.”

      “Okay, Love you too.”

      I peer into the sink. It’s empty and a pile of clean baking tins, bowls, mixing appliances and measuring devices are now drying beside me on a kitchen towel. Moms are magical. I think of my own daughter and hope that I can be as magical for her.

      I smile, grab my ipod and start typing “yeast tips.” Some childhood memories are too good to put to rest.

    • Peanut, your stories are always delightful fun and it sounds like your mother was as well. I wish I could have met her.

  2. Mother

    Her morning breath hovered heavier than her guilt as she buttered my cheeks with a string of “sorrys.” She was, for that brief mother-son interlude, sorry, and I would let her deplane from her guilt trip with whatever she could muster for a façade of dignity.

    She would allow herself egress from the discomfort by giving my bottom a loving swat and tell me to go in the back yard and play. It wasn’t until much later I saw that all of her emotions from anger to affection – were measured in physical contact and half-truths. No son wants to think of his mother as a liar. No son wants to admit that he is that bad. I wished my back yard never ended.

    The day I stood my ground was our last day together. A neighbor heard her screams fade to whimpers. We knew she was a troubled woman the neighbor told the police. Child protective services filled in the forms. I’s were dotted. Ts were crossed. A judge made it official.

    I would like to say I rarely think about her, but that would make me a liar, maybe not like her, but a liar all the same. I think about her as I toss my near-infant son a tennis ball and watch it bounce off his tummy. When he doesn’t like his peas or carrots or beans, and I sneak a spoon of ice cream between his lips and watch his face, surprised. When I wash his cheeks with a string of “love-yous.” As I pray that the circle is indeed broken.

    • Jeff, your reflection touched me deeply. I was so fortunate to have an idealic childhood, but many, many people have not been so blessed. Your son is in good hands with you. Your writing clearly shows your character…and it is gentle and compassionate. Granted, you can be a bit twisted at times, but in a good way. Thank you for this post.

    • Jeff, your writing is full of so much emotion. It saddens me to know that not everyone had the ideal childhood that I had (my father and husband included) but I am happy to see that you’ve broken the circle and that your son’s childhood will be full of loving memories. I love that you surprise him with ice cream between veggies. Wish I had thought of that with my daughter.

    • Aw, geez, Jeff.This brought me to tears and I don’t need to be crying in the SeaTac airport. Well done.

  3. The contrast from your childhood to your son’s comes through, as does your determination to make it so. I also liked the contrast of the two verbs (related to cheeks) of “buttered” as opposed to “washed.” It sounds so clearly like the child you were was supposed to be the adult, absolving and fixing–getting buttered up. In contrast, your son is taken care of–washed with love. Strong writing, Jeff.

  4. My Mother

    I lost my mother once. I was nineteen when she told me I had made my bed and had to lie in it. And believe me, she meant it.

    Her daughter and I were no longer the same person. She had a princess, spoiled with no responsibility. I grew up fast and met responsibility head on. I learned to boil water, clean house, shop and cook. Her daughter, before that bed was made, could do no wrong and did so just because she could. I was overwhelmed by the real world and didn’t have the time or the energy for anything else.

    It was ten years later when I became seriously ill and she took us in. Her daughter was still a teenager and I was a mother and wife in my late twenties. On long walks down the hill and back up, we battled through our differences.

    Somewhere in those walks I earned her respect and trust. We still yelled all the time. I suppose that’s why she had me, so she would have someone to argue with. But it was uncanny, whenever my world was falling apart, she would call to find out what was wrong.

    Forty years later, we sat side by side on her hospital bed, she with perfect posture, me wishing for a backrest. She looked over her mail and told me I would have some decisions to make.

    I don’t remember her taking my hand. I do remember feeling that my hand fit perfectly in hers just like a glove. But more than that how safe I felt. There was nowhere else I needed to be. Even today, I can still feel my hand in hers.

    • Tink, even though your story is a bit confusing I really liked the ending and can clearly feel how fond you are of that memory.

  5. Clearly this is a precious memory built on a lifetime of struggle. I did have trouble following all the female pronouns. I’m not sure who the daughter is and who the narrator is. Who is the “us” is in the third paragraph. Remember that while you know all the facts, we only have the clues you give us. The ending is quite fine.

  6. 1944
    Mom could always count on me to be curbside when her carpool dropped her off in the pre-dawn darkness.. I can’t recall who woke me up and made sure I was dressed to go out in the morning cold. It must have been Nanny. Her sweetness was so pervasive that I don’t ever remember being without it. I would escort Mom down the lane to the house, fighting my fear of the pitch black shadows.
    She worked the midnight shift at Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, some thirty miles from Pasadena. My Dad had enlisted in the army, and we were living in my paternal grandparent’s converted living room, Mom and I shared a double bed; she during day, and me at night.
    As she donned her nightgown in the small bathroom, I sat on the bed and shuffled the cards. I was fairly adept for a five year old. She would slip into the warm covers and we would commence our morning routine of a game of crazy eights. We played until she couldn’t keep her eyes open, and I always begged for one more game.
    As she drifted into a deep slumber, I watched her rythmic breathing for a few moments, and then quietly slipped out of the room and dressed for school.

    • Gee Gale, you are even older than me! Love the images, this story is alive.

    • I’ve read many WWII stories, but so few are about the women at home, raising kids, working, and trying to make it all work. This one, told from the child’s pov is so good. We’re there, and that’s what I always like most about a story: sense of place, the complexity of emotions, the feelings that we’re inside the narrator’s experience.

      • galelikethewind

        Thanks, Ann , for the kind words. I hope to be contributing to this excellent Blog more often.
        It occurred to me after posting this, that as a five year old, I always saw my Mom as a fully mature adult. In fact, when she worked as a Rosie The Riveter she was only 22 years old..

  7. My mother left when I was was young then, when my father was ready to move on, he made his mother mine.

    I’m quite sure I would have survived, somewhere, but from that day I was destined to become the mill stone around my grandmother’s neck– she reminded me of it every single day. How lucky was my father to have made good his escape to a new life on the far side of this very large country?

    Throughout the years so much that should have happened out of love happened out of obligation, both from her side and from mine. But life was good to me, I married and produced a couple of fabulous kids.

    When my children were in primary school my grandmother had a massive heart attack that landed her in hospital. She seemed to be recovering, so my husband and I discussed the possibility that she should come to live with us. Dealing with the guilt I felt at dreading that thought was ripping me apart.

    Now for the memory I hold dear and always will:
    I visited her in hospital and it was as though I had found a different woman. She spoke about my children and told me that I was a good mother to them. The hospital phoned next day and I expected to hear that she was ready to be discharged, but they were ringing to tell me she had died.

  8. There are so many variations on the theme of “mother.” You give us one more here, couched in very personal, emotional terms. It’s quite moving.

  9. will post something as soon as i get home from india, which might be thursday. i think.

  10. Good to see you are still connected even though far afield!

  11. Jeff, Can you post it here too? I’m lazy. –Ann

    • Ward posted it just above.

    • It just dawned on me that you might be asking if I could copy and post the story text here. I am unable to do that per my publisher’s agreement.

      In addition, I think readers might find comments on this story and others of interest especially if they first read the stories, formulate their opinions, then read the posted comments.

  12. Relative Perspectives

    She never loved you, you know.

    Well, maybe right at first she did, because mothers are supposed to love their children. But after Pearl Harbor was bombed and all those opportunities became available to women? That’s when the trouble started. Remember Norman in third grade? You thought someone liked you, and then he didn’t. You wouldn’t go in the house. She came out with a basket of wet laundry to hang and said, “What are you crying about?” “I lost my boyfriend,” you said. “Oh, for Pete’s sakes. Quit your crying and go in the house.” Then she went on to more important things—hanging the laundry on the line.

    She never loved you, you know.

    At least, you should have known by then. Remember the college fiasco, when she noticed all the college catalogues, and told you they couldn’t afford to send you to college? And when the scholarship winners were announced in the newspaper, she asked why your name wasn’t on the list. You told her you hadn’t applied because she’d already said they couldn’t afford it. “Oh, for Pete’s sakes. You KNOW we could have come up with the money somehow.”

    She never loved you, you know.

    Remember the kiss on the cheek at your high school graduation? First time you can remember her touching you—except for the slaps across the face, that is. So, with all those clues, all those things that told you she never loved you, what was all that about when they pulled the plug on the life support system, and she was struggling to breathe on her own. You fled the room, sat in the waiting room.

    Because, she never loved you, you know.

    Many years later, your younger sister says, “She loved you the most, you know. You were the first born. We all knew she loved you the most.”

  13. Gullie! This is fine writing, right up my alley. A wonderful voice. A hard but gentle left turn at the end. You speak my language mam.

  14. Oh, man. Thanks for this Gully. It hits home.

  15. I was nervous. I thought I had worked hard, but then again I had thought that before and the results never seemed to change. Mrs. Semple handed me the yellow envelope I had painstakingly decorated with swirls and zigzags in red and purple and green, the words “REPORT CARD” and my name in square black letters across the top.
    I pulled out the folded green cardboard and immediately opened it to the middle. Math, “A”, Science, “A”, Writing “A”, Social Studies, “A”, Physical Education, “A”. I closed my eyes and let out the breath I had been holding. YES!
    I spent the 10 minute walk home from school planning exactly how I was going to present this achievement to my Mom. She would be home from work at 5:30. I would sit her down in a chair in the kitchen, and because she would be so excited and ready to faint, I would hand her a glass of water before I allowed her to view the precious card.
    I had two whole hours to wait. I had the chair positioned, I had the glass of water on the table at the ready and I kept the yellow envelope in my hands so when she came in the door I could quickly hide it behind my back and she would be surprised.
    The car pulled into the driveway and she had hardly finished closing the kitchen door when I said, “Mom you have to sit down.”
    “I need to get my coat off, what is this all about?”
    “OK take your coat off and then sit down. I have something for you”
    She looked over at the stove and I heard her sigh, “You didn’t peel the potatoes for supper like I asked.”
    “Yes I will, but sit down.” And I grabbed her hand and pulled her to the chair that I had ready.
    “Here. Here is a glass of water for you.”
    I could hear the exasperation in her voice, “I don’t need water. I just got home from work. What is all this about?”
    I pulled the yellow envelope from behind my back with flourish and presented it to her.
    She sighed again. She opened the envelope and pulled out the green card. She read the front page and then slowly opened the card as I danced from foot to foot with impatience.
    She read the inside of the card, “That’s good.”
    “Mom, I got all A’s!”
    “You’ve had that before haven’t you?”
    I swallowed hard, “No, no I haven’t had ALL A’s before”
    “Get me a pen and I will sign this before I forget and then you can take it back tomorrow”
    As I handed her the pen she said, “How about getting those potatoes done?”

  16. High on tippy toes I approach my mother’s dresser and carefully pull down her wooden jewelry box to my waiting knees. Merely colored glass, the baubles inside sparkle as brightly as diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds to my eager young eyes. Buttons shaped like earrings, pins shaped like birds, necklaces as long as my arm and, my favorite, a row of tiny, red lady bugs which stretch across my little wrist and fasten into a bracelet. I sit and play with these gems while Mama sits nearby ironing Daddy’s shirts and humming show tunes. This is where I go when I am feeling alone or afraid, back to the jewels scattered across my mother’s bedroom floor. Here I am safe, here I have to worries, here I am my happiest. It’s been more than fifty years since I played with Mama’s jewels but I can still feel them tucked safely in my hands and see their sparkle in her eyes.

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